Editorial terrorism

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Anna Staver, "Man threatens to blow up state building over misspelled sign: Suspect blames failure to detonate on misspellings in instructions", Stateman-Journal, 5/29/2013:

A man brought a pressure cooker he claimed was a bomb into the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission office and told employees he tried to blow up their sign because it was misspelled on Wednesday morning. [...]

Leonard Burdek, 50, of Salem, told Chamberlain and the receptionist that he tried to blow up the agency’s outside sign, but the bomb didn’t work.

The sign spells out the agency’s name in blue letters and sits at the end of its parking lot at 250 Division Street NE. One side is missing the letter “D” in the word “and” so it reads: “Teacher Standards an Practices Commission.”

She didn’t know what happened to the sign, but Chamberlain said it’s possible that someone scraped the letter off or it wore off over time.

After discussing his failed attempt to detonate his bomb, the man complained that the instructions he downloaded to make the bomb also had misspellings.

This is a more pointed reaction than that of the "grammar vigilantes" of 2008, described by Andrew Mueller at the Guardian as "a small but righteous crew [who] are traversing America in order to edit it".



17 Comments

  1. Robert Coren said,

    June 2, 2013 @ 10:11 am

    This line:

    After discussing his failed attempt to detonate his bomb, the man complained that the instructions he downloaded to make the bomb also had misspellings.

    had me thinking that this had to be from The Onion. But apparently it's for real.

  2. KWillets said,

    June 2, 2013 @ 11:13 am

    Was that syntax or semantics?

  3. GeorgeW said,

    June 2, 2013 @ 11:13 am

    Maybe there should be a law that all bomb and biological weapon making instructions should have some minimum number of misspellings. We could save a lot of money in surveillance, deterrence, etc. Airlines would have no concerns about suspicious shoes or underwear. The President could open his own mail.

  4. Brett said,

    June 2, 2013 @ 12:16 pm

    @Robert Coren: It's not quite The Onion, but the paper this appeared has an unusual (and negative) reputation. In the 1980s and 1990s (and maybe still today), it was commonly known as the "Statesman Urinal."

  5. Dylan said,

    June 2, 2013 @ 1:14 pm

    Wow, fiction comes to life:
    http://partiallyclips.com/2005/09/22/witness-stand/

  6. Adam Funk said,

    June 2, 2013 @ 2:53 pm

    Orthographic Liberation Army!

    (Sorry, I watched Network a few days ago.)

  7. Jimbino said,

    June 2, 2013 @ 3:25 pm

    It's the misspellings and bad grammar that give away the phishing attempt, the erroneous bomb-making instructions and the unqualified medical practitioner. I don't know how descriptivists survive. Maybe it's better this way.

  8. Norman Smith said,

    June 2, 2013 @ 4:55 pm

    So, "he tried to blow up their sign because it was misspelled on Wednesday morning."

    Would it have been OK if it had been misspelled on Thursday morning?

  9. Eric P Smith said,

    June 2, 2013 @ 7:13 pm

    Perhaps he's confusing Semantics with Semtex.

  10. Nocti said,

    June 2, 2013 @ 7:15 pm

    I'm more concerned that the headline for this article is almost completely contradictory to the truth.

    "threatens to blow up": "told employees he tried to blow up"
    "state building": "their sign"
    "blames failure to detonate on misspellings" : "the man complained that the instructions he downloaded to make the bomb also had misspellings."

    Top notch journalism there, folks.

  11. Graeme said,

    June 2, 2013 @ 7:44 pm

    Why didn't he just paint a 'd' to fix the sign? Or am I a hippy?

  12. KWillets said,

    June 3, 2013 @ 11:07 am

    Languages which allow more spelling variation have more bombings — it's the Sapper-Whorf hypothesis.

  13. Eric Jablow said,

    June 4, 2013 @ 12:03 am

    I was tempted to blow up a sign once, but I knew it would do no good. Just after I entered left Wisconsin and entered Illinois on I-90, I saw a sign that read, "Buckle Up. Its the Law." The thought of thousands of such signs scattered around the state left me fuming.

  14. Eric Jablow said,

    June 4, 2013 @ 12:03 am

    Typos. Darn it.

  15. un malpaso said,

    June 4, 2013 @ 9:19 am

    Blowing up a sign is overkill. Here in the South, we just use shotguns.

  16. Chris C. said,

    June 4, 2013 @ 8:29 pm

    It has been noted by other commentators that Google Street View shows the sign in question as having the "D". That is, the letter fell off the sign and had not been replaced. It wasn't a misspelling so much as an unresolved maintenance issue.

  17. Ray Dillinger said,

    June 4, 2013 @ 8:59 pm

    I used to joke with my friends that if I ever really did go stark raving bonkers, I would probably wind up being taken into custody after riding my motorcycle down main street while brandishing a shotgun, screaming obscenities and blowing away all the misspelled signs.

    One of them didn't laugh though; he just nodded thoughtfully and told me he could help if I needed to take the plug out of the magazine so I could load enough shells for more than a block or so. Then we got sidetracked wondering how hard it would be to modify a shotgun to use interchangeable magazines….

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